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Fashion Fix: What to wear and where to find it

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Holly Thomas,Janet Bennett Kelly
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 12:00 PM

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Janet Bennett Kelly:

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Non-mom jeans: Can you recommend a brand of jeans that's cut a little higher in the waist without looking like mom jeans? I'm 50-plus, not overweight, but would like something that contains the stomach area a little. Levis used to be my standby, but all of their new styles fall about an inch too low. Thanks!

Holly Thomas: I'd take a look at Talbot's new denim line, particularly the Heritage Bootcut and maybe the Favorite Trouser fits. Nordstrom also carries two brands that might be worth a try: CJ by Cookie Johnson and Not Your Daughter's Jeans. Order a range of cuts in different sizes so you can try them on at home, with your existing clothes. Let us know what you find!

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Jeans for women over 40: I need some new blue jeans but I'm dreading looking for them. Skinny jeans might looks good on a (few) high school students, but for the rest of us, they are a nightmare. Instead of the traditional "muffin top," we're now facing the prospect of looking like a mushroom cloud. Not good. Any advice for finding jeans that will look fashion-forward but not age-inappropriate?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Wonder of wonders, it fit. Other brands to try are Citizens for Humanity and Paige.

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Budget Hair Color: Love your chats, ladies - I still follow religiously since leaving the DC area.I've been on the interview circuit for a painfully long 4 months, and my roots are becoming impossible to ignore. Not the image I want to convey, but I truly cannot afford a salon visit right now. However, a visit to the hair color aisle at CVS strikes terror in my heart. Can you recommend a high quality color, good at covering a bit of gray?

Janet Bennett Kelly: There's something from Oscar Blandi called Pronto Colore Root Touch-Up and Highlighting Pen. It's sold at Sephora. I've heard good things about how it can cover gray roots.

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Trouser jeans: I think you mentioned trouser jeans last week. Could you recommend a few pairs - especially for someone who is petite? Thanks!

Holly Thomas: J.Jill has a petite trouser option on sale at the moment. Also, a good tailor is key if you're having a hard time finding specific styles in petite fits.

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Paris and fashion: I was in Paris last week, and noted a real change in style since my last visit. Women were very casually dressed and lacking their usual fashionable panache. Really, they could just have easily have been schlepping around Georgetown in their boot-cut jeans and Chuck Taylor-type sneakers. I compared notes with a friend who is French and was there a couple of weeks earlier, and she had the same impression.Also, following up on last year's debate on whether or not pantyhose were still appropriate (sentiment on this chat seeming to lean towards not), I noted plenty of pantyhose-clad women in Paris, including one wearing nude hose with shorts....which was not a good look. Surprisingly, London was much more fashionable on this trip. Go figure.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for reporting back ... this might depend on where you were, however. If you were hanging around anywhere near the Paris fashion week shows, you probably would have seen more style than you could tolerate.

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Cold-weather static!: My hair is dramatically affected, in a bad way, by cold-weather static, so I've developed some tips that I'd like to share: (1) condition extra-thoroughly and try to wash less often, (2) use a small amount of leave-in conditioner before styling, applying it when hair is no longer really wet (otherwise, lots is squeezed out with the water), (3) apply a very small amount of leave-in conditioner to dry hair after styling, smoothing it lightly over the top hairs, and (4) spraying the neck and inside parts of sweaters (especially those with turtle or cowl necks) with antistatic spray before getting dressed. I also keep a travel size antistatic spray at work _and_ dress strategically if I'm going clothes shopping and will be undressing and redressing. No turtlenecks on those days!

Holly Thomas: Great tips, thank you!

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Walking in Paris: Help!!! I'm going to Paris for Christmas and while I'm thrilled, I'm becoming obsessed about my feet! My husband are walkers. We'll cover the city on our feet so I've GOT to take footwear that works. I also want to keep luggage to a bare minimum. (Last 17-day trip to Italy, I took one carry on!) So what do I do? And what will possibly work for day long walking of neighborhoods, a bit dressier evenings, and possibly cold, wet weather????? Like I said, Help!!! (I'm short--5'3"--so some things really don't work--and average weight.)

Janet Bennett Kelly: Geox makes a riding-style boot that's sold at Nordstrom that's comfortable and will keep your feet dry. You can wear during the day for walking around the city and it will work for slightly dressy evenings. But if you're really getting dressed up, I'd pack a pair of pumps.

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Grey boots: I bought a pair of grey ankle boots which I love but aside from denim or grey pants, what can I wear them with?? Not sure what other colors they will work with and my usual other winter staple trouser is black. I'm over 35 so I can't pair them with a miniskirt, but do ankle boots ever look good with a skirt (again, if you're over 35?)?

Janet Bennett Kelly: What about black or navy pants -- they would certainly work with that. And I also think you could wear them with a knee-length pencil skirt or one that's slightly above the knee.

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wearing tights...: What do you think of tights with knee length pencil skirts? I love tights, and longer knee length skirts are more office-appropriate; however, sometimes I think it looks a little school marm-ish. Is it ok to pair them together?Also, I recently bought a pair of medium gray wool blend ribbed tights. I need some suggestions on how to wear them without pairing too many colors. Any ideas??

Holly Thomas: I think tights and pencil skirts look great together, whether you're pairing them with pumps or tall boots. Just make sure the rest of your outfit has some youthful personality, whether it's through color or accessories or an interesting texture. Gray pairs beautifully with navy, red, ivory, eggplant ... If you're worried about pairing too many colors, try keeping your color palette to three shades (like a black shift dress, gray tights, gray pumps and a jewel-toned bag).

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€™s watches that come oversized?

Janet Bennett Kelly: Try one from Michael Kors and see how that fits.

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Local Fashion Designer: Hi Holly and Janet,I just moved to the DC area recently from Europe. I love supporting local fashion talent, but I have a hard time finding any. Any names, hints and suggestions about designers located and working in the area are greatly appreciated.Cheers, Nora

Holly Thomas: Hi Nora! Cheers to you for seeking out local talent -- you might want to investigate Artistic Aya, Tashia Senn and Taimur Baig, for starters. Here's a recent profile I wrote on three up-and-coming DC designers, and a list of area boutiques that carry work by local jewelry artists, clothing designers and more.

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Roots: For the chatter looking for root coverage, the root touch up kit from nice and easy is great and very user friendly. For a less permanent solution, Bumble and Bumble has a dry shampoo spray that comes in colors that is great in a pinch. Match the color with your hair and it is good to go in five mins.

Holly Thomas: I've heard great things about B&B's dry shampoo -- thanks for the tip!

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Higher waisted jeans: I have been buying the Sweetheart jeans at Old Navy and I have gotten a number of compliments. They come up right below my belly button and they are really comfortable. I don't have to worry about putting on a show when I bend down to get something. Also, I am in the process of losing weight and I have gone down two sizes since May. It is great to buy a couple pairs of $30 jeans each time I hit a new size, and to not feel guilty about wasting money when I go down to the next size!

Holly Thomas: A suggestion for Old Navy for the chatter looking for jeans that hit at the waist ...

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Footwear for Christmas in Paris: La Canadienne makes fabulous, comfortable and WATERPROOF boots in lots of great styles. They might be a little pricier than some options, but I have a pair that still looks great after several winters, and they really are waterproof. Zappos carries them, and the pair I found was at a comfort shoe store. I can't praise this brand enough. They got me stylishly through all the slush of last winter, which is saying something.

Holly Thomas: I've also heard great things about this brand -- thanks for the suggestion!

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Pants: Hi Holly and Janet,I am short, short-waisted, and pear shaped: 32-26-37. Should I wear work pants that sit on my waist or a little below my waist on my hips? I feel that it's OK for older women to wear pants at their waist or for women to wear high-waisted pants if they're tall and long-torsoed, but I feel downright dowdy in pants that supposedly fit me "well" when hitting at my true waist. I'm a slim woman who's deceptively curvier than I appear. Should I rediscover my natural waist or do you agree that a somewhat lower rise is more modern and young looking as well as torso lengthening?

Janet Bennett Kelly: I personally find them more flattering and easy to wear than ones that hit at the waist. Does that help?

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Another Tights Question: I saw I look I loved - it involved a pencil skirt and nude fishnets. From a distance you couldn't really see the fishnet pattern, and I thought it looked really cute....but I'm still leery of actually wearing fishnets in ANY color myself. What are your thoughts?

Holly Thomas: Nude fishnets have been a European style staple for years ... I first saw them in Spain 10 years ago as a high-school exchange student. They add an understated sexiness to a conservative outfit, and I think they look quite chic. You can get them on the cheap from American Apparel, so why not give it a try?

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Winterizing nude pumps?: Hi Janet and Hollythanks for your great discussions! I have a relatively large proportion of nude pumps in my closet, and not many "winter" pumps. I don't wear pantyhose in the summer with my nude pumps and feel this look lengthens my legs. Can you help me with how I can continue wearing my nude pumps in the winter? I don't think I can get away in the cold without tights, but most of my tights are black or brown. I'd rather not buy more shoes - don't need any more encouragement in that arena. thank you!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Look for tights that are lighter in texture and have some pattern in them. I recently saw a pair of fishnets in a beige color that could be paired with a skirt or dress that has taupe in it.

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Donating Women's work clothes : I have a bagful of petite clothes that I would like to donate. Mostly work and a few casual pieces. I live in Herndon but would be willing to drop off within 20ish miles from me. Any suggestions of places besides Goodwill or Salvation Army?

Holly Thomas: Dress for Success or Suited for Change are both good options, and both have local chapters. You might also want to see if there are community centers in your area that have back-to-work programs for women preparing to enter the workforce.

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CAPS: I'm a season ticket holder to the Washington Caps! I often wear a jersey or Caps tee with my jeans to games. The problem arrives when I try to find shoes to wear, like most women I have plenty to choose from but none seem to work. tennis shoes are meant for the gym, high heel boots seem too dressy. I still want to look feline, what do I put on?

Janet Bennett Kelly: you lost the jersey, you could wear a knit sweater with your jeans and then your high-heel boots would work fine.

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Shorter dress for older woman: I'm 50 and just bought a Michael Kors dress I love, but am worried it's too short for my age. It's a couple of inches above the knee but the rest of the dress is blousy and I would pair with a jacket. My legs are my best feature and it's a very flattering look for me. Please tell me it's okay!

Holly Thomas: If your legs are great, flaunt them! If you're feeling self-conscious about the hemline, just keep your top half more covered (with a blazer or cardigan), or pair with opaque tights and heels or boots.

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For the shortwaisted one: I'm 5'5" with a 33" inseam, 32-25-35, so I'm not far off from you. Do NOT wear pants at your waist-all it does is shorten the torso. I have one pair of super high waisted pants that look great, in a costume-y way, but the others are all low rise-on those of us that are smaller in the torso, low-rise isn't really low-they're just not making us look like we've hiked out pants up to our bras.

Holly Thomas: Thanks for weighing in! Pants that fall closer to the hip (versus the natural waist) are definitely better for short-waisted figures.

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Re: Caps: Why don't you try a cute pair of flats in gold, silver or other "neutral" color?

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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Shoe help: I have the worst time trying to find work-appropriate shoes. Due to a past surgery, I can't wear heels for much longer than a dinner out...so all day at work is out of the question. This even includes low heels or wedges. I've tried it, and it's just too painful.On the other hand, I find most ballet flats don't have enough arch support.Also- I live in a small town and am not near DC, so would prefer online or national chain.Thanks!

Holly Thomas: Cole Haan's Nike Air line, Dansko, Geox and Born.

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I still want to look feline: What does this mean?

Holly Thomas: It can mean elegant and sleek, and that's how I took it ... though I guess it could mean this.

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Leopard shoes, now what?: I have these leopard pumps, black heel, round toe. I thought I could wear them with black pants. But then what do I wear on top? Do I have to keep it solid? If not, what kind of parameters would you suggest? I'm kind of at a loss but want to make sure I get a good cost-per-wear on these shoes!

Janet Bennett Kelly: You could wear a sweater on top -- a chunky long cardigan if the pants are on the skinny side. Otherwise, a camisole and a cardigan topper or a long-sleeved cashmere top in gray or taupe or a sweater with a subtle pattern.

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Pencil skirts: What can I wear on top with a charcoal grey pencil skirt to make it more dressy than office-y?

Janet Bennett Kelly: A sleeveless ruffled top in aubergine, perhaps? Or dress up an oxford shirt with some pearls.

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Re: CAPS: You're going to watch sports, not necessarily to impress. Find some 'feline' shoes in more fashion-forward sneakers such as Pumas, they also make cute sneaker-flats, or Golas or go old-school in a pair of low-top converse. Can't go wrong there. Zappos has plenty of options!

Holly Thomas: Personally, I don't think it matters if you're watching sports or going to the ballet -- you can dress for the occasion and still look like yourself. I vote for a Caps tee (one that fits -- nothing baby-doll or oversized), slim-cut jeans and simple flats, driving mocs or old-school street sneakers like Golas, Chucks or Jack Purcells.

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jersey: another option is to find a more "fashion" tenis shoe like the cute retro Sauconys or some that Puma has. You can find a who category for these kinds of tennis shoes on Zappos. I live in my Pumas on the weekends. Comfy to run errands, but still not running shoes.

Holly Thomas: Agreed -- thanks for joining us today!

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Slim suits for guys at work: Boyfriend is mid-30s and fit. He recently told me that he doesn't love pleated pants, but they are necessary for a more formal look in suits. I think heavy pleats just look dated and do not flatter his short stature. In a conservative business environment, does he need to wear pleated pant suits, or can a flat front/slimmer cut still be appropriate? I'd love to see him in a sharp new suit!

Janet Bennett Kelly: I don't agree. Flat-front pants in a slim cut and a narrow-cut jacket look much more modern for men that pleated pants.

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RE: Shoe Help: For the writer who can't wear heels and needs arch support in flats...I swear by Superfeet orthotics. The 3/4 version for dress shoes would work with flats, and they also make a version for heels and several different kinds for more athletic shoes. They have saved my feet! My doctor told me they often work better than custom orthotics. You can buy them at many active stores, but the best price is on Amazon.com. You just stick them in your shoes, and can move them between pairs. Good luck.

Janet Bennett Kelly: Thanks for the shoe help.

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Shorter Dress for Older Woman: I'm also just back from Paris! I agree that the look seems to be much more casual than what I expected. Jeans and Chuck Taylors or Keds but always with the big scarves that French woman wear so well.For the shorter dress, you might try to pair it with leggings. This was another look I saw in Paris on woman of all ages. Leggings either below the ankle or mid-calf.

Holly Thomas: Am I the only one who hasn't been to Paris lately? Le sigh ... but thanks for these great tips! I have to add that pants and leggings that hit at mid-calf haven't flattered anyone since Audrey Hepburn. Stick with ankle-length versions and you'll be completely chic.

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Feline link: Holly, I think that is the most frightening thing I've ever seen. My stomach literally turned over.

Holly Thomas: Sorry! True (and terribly tragic) story though ...

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Tights: Well, it's almost tight season, and I need to invest in some new pairs. Can you share your recommended brand(s)? I'll probably just get basic black and brown but it would be nice if they lasted through a Denver winter. Thanks!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Hue is a good brand, and the tights I've purchased have held up very well. I'm a big fan of Wolford since I first discovered them at Harrods in the early 1990s. Admittedly, they're pricey but they last.

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Leopard shoes - now what?: I have a pair of leopard pumps, with black heels. I would wear them with my black pants, but what kind of tops? Do I have to stick with solid colors? If not, what would you suggest? I really have to get the cost-per-wear down on these things! Thanks!

Holly Thomas: Any sort of neutral would work great with your leopard pumps -- black, camel, ivory, even true red. Try them with dark denim, a black blazer and a white button-up shirt for an easy outfit; use them to dress up a jewel-toned shift and a dark brown handbag. Whether you stick with solid colors depends on your innate style -- some people can mix leopard print and polka dots (look to one of my fave bloggers, The Glamourai, for proof), while others prefer to pair it with solids. Just depends on what makes you feel good.

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Best seamless underwear: I'm looking for a pair of seamless underwear to wear this weekend under a silk dress at a friend's wedding. There are just too many out there!

Janet Bennett Kelly: Any chatter have a great recommendation?

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Updating wardrobe for almost 60 year old: I'll be 60 in December - working 1/2 time with a wardrobe that's part JJill and part Eddie Bauer - where would you suggest I shop for updated styles.

Holly Thomas: Some good starting points: Land's End Canvas, LL Bean Signature (two new, fashion-forward collections from classic brands) and Talbots. For discounts and sales, try Loehmann's, Filene's Basement and TJ Maxx.

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Seamless underwear: La Perla. Can't be beat and your date will like it too.

Holly Thomas: Thanks!

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Again about jeans--Not Figure Flaws: I resent the idea that those of us who do not wear low-cut or skinny jeans have "figure flaws." I have a great figure, it is just not one that those types of jeans flatters. I also do not find them stylish. Trouser jeans are another alternative worth mentioning.

Janet Bennett Kelly: And, yes, trouser jeans are worth mentioning as an alternative. Thanks.

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Red Trench Coat HELP!: Hello,Please take my question! I've looked online to no avail. I live in Alexandria and I need a bright red trench coat, Carmen Sandiego style. Nothing more than 200 dollars. Can you help me? All the online ones are too dark of a red. I need a fire engine red one.

Holly Thomas: How about this one?

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Higher-waisted jeans: The chatter looking for higher-waisted jeans that aren't "Mom" jeans might want to look at James Jeans "Hector" style. They have a 9-inch inseam and are boot-cut. Plus they have ingeniously styled back pockets that give your rear a little lift (or at least the appearance of same). They come in lots of washes, too. Not cheap -- regular retail runs $150-$200 -- but I often see them on sale online. I recently bought a pair for $49 at gilt.com, in fact.

Holly Thomas: Great tip, thanks!

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RE: Trouser Jeans: I've actually found these at Express, of all places! I'm 5'4 and they're a good length, plus you can just toss them in the wash machine

Holly Thomas: A vote for Express for trouser-cut jeans -- thanks!

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Riding Boots: Are riding boots over jeans still 'in' this year? i love the look and have a classic pair of camel colored boots that i can't wait to break out of my closet!

Holly Thomas: I think wearing riding boots over jeans will always be stylish, probably because it's a look that has been around for centuries (stemming from English riding getups). And your boots sound gorgeous!

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Holly Thomas: Thanks for joining us for today's round of Fashion Fix! The chatter who mentioned Nice 'n' Easy and Bumble & Bumble products for root coverage gets the Hugo Naturals soap; the one who suggested James Jeans' Hector fit for the chatter looking for non-mom jeans gets the Urban Decay item. Send your mailing info to fashion@washpost.com and we'll get those out to you. And join us again next Tuesday at noon!


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